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Teeth Whitening: Professional vs. At-Home Kits

If you’re thinking about whitening your teeth, you have a variety of treatment options to choose from. Today, most drugstores have a wide range of whitening toothpaste, gels, strips, and trays. Then there’s professional teeth whitening, which you can have done by a dentist with experience in cosmetic dentistry. With so many options available, choosing a treatment plan which will work best for you can be tricky.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of professional and over-the-counter whitening treatments so that you can get back to showing off those pearly whites!

The Basics: At-home Kits vs Professional Treatments

Almost all teeth whitening treatments rely on the use of a chemical called peroxide. Peroxide comes in different forms. DIY whitening kits usually use carbamide peroxide, whereas dentists use a stronger form of peroxide called hydrogen peroxide. At-home whitening kits typically involve the application of either a peroxide gel or thin strips coated with peroxide to your teeth for a period of time, as indicated on the product packaging. Some drugstores also sell trays that you can put whitening gels into and wear over your teeth.

Professional whitening treatments, on the other hand, involve the application of hydrogen peroxide gel to your teeth. Sometimes a special light or laser is directed at your teeth to activate the gel and quicken the process. Usually, your dentist will also create a customized tray that fits over your teeth exactly. You can then take this tray home with you and use it to apply whitening gels from time to time. This will help you to maintain the results of the treatment over a longer period.

Which Teeth Whitening Solution Will Work Best For Me?

While both over-the-counter and professional treatments will make a difference to your teeth, they each have their pros and cons.

Results and Effectiveness

At-home kits have a much lower concentration of peroxide than professional products used by dentists. An at-home product containing 10-20% of carbamide peroxide is only equivalent to about 3% hydrogen peroxide. In contrast, dentists typically use products with concentrations of hydrogen peroxide ranging from 15-40%. For this reason, at-home kits usually take between one or two weeks to start giving you visible results, whereas professional treatments will produce visible results immediately. You’ll also find that over-the-counter products are not able to remove tougher tooth stains and discoloration (for example, the kind of stains caused by smoking). Professional teeth whitening solutions offered by dentists are better at removing these kinds of stubborn stains because they use much stronger bleaching agents.

Whichever treatment type you choose, remember that it’s a good idea to have a professional teeth cleaning beforehand – whitening agents don’t work as well on your teeth if they have plaque build-up.

Ease of Use

At-home kits are naturally easy to use – after all, they’re intended to allow you to whiten your teeth in the comfort of your own home. However, you’ll need to be diligent about applying the strips or gels every day for the correct amount of time. Professional treatments will require you to visit your dentist, and sometimes more than one appointment may be necessary for tougher stains. However, once you’ve had the appointment, you won’t need to hassle with gels or strips every day – you’ll only need to use your take-home tray every now and then to maintain your results.

This is another advantage of professional whitening: your take-home tray is custom-made to fit your mouth. Over-the-counter trays are made one size fits all, so they may not fit your teeth comfortably.


There are two complications that can arise from whitening procedures: increased tooth sensitivity, and gum irritation caused by peroxide making contact with your gums. Generally, if you already struggle with tooth sensitivity, you may not be a good candidate for teeth whitening. For this reason, it’s important to consult your dentist before trying whitening treatments, even if you’re only planning to use an at-home kit.

As for gum irritation, this is much less of a risk when you have your teeth whitened professionally, as dentists use a special rubber shield or gel to protect your gums from the peroxide.

In contrast, it’s much more difficult to keep whitening products from making contact with your gums when using at-home kits. This is also why you should check that the whitening product you buy has the ADA Seal of Acceptance so that you can be sure it is safe to use at home.


Last but not least is the cost factor. At-home kits are cheaper than professional treatments. However, you get what you pay for: over-the-counter whitening products are less effective on tougher stains and will take longer to work.

Professional treatments are more expensive, but that’s because you’re paying for your dentist’s expert supervision. Your dentist will conduct a thorough examination of your teeth and gums to ensure you are a suitable candidate for a whitening treatment and will assess the extent of the stains to match them to the correct type of treatment. They will also ensure minimal irritation to your gums in the process. Finally, they’ll create your personalized take-home tray and gel so that you can maintain the results of your treatment at home.

Professional whitening treatments are more cost-effective in the long run because you’ll be able to keep your teeth looking shiny and white for a lot longer.

Choose The Best Teeth Whitening Solutions For You

Whatever you decide, you should always consult with your dentist first before using any teeth whitening products. Eriks Dental Group has helped hundreds of patients to get their teeth shining and their confidence back. We’ll be able to give you all the advice you need to make an informed decision about which teeth whitening treatment is best for you. Don’t hesitate to contact us – let’s get that smile back to what it should be!